In an effort to live longer, feel healthier and look better, most of us will try to pick the foods that are good for us.
Thanks to advertising and health advice from scientists and government bodies, the last few decades have been a war on fat.
The warning to society is that we need to banish fat from our lives and diets to be healthy. In our plight to do what is right, many switched to the lifestyle recommended.
Instead of butter, turn to margarine. Opt for diet soft drinks instead of full-fat options. Choose low-fat yoghurts over full-fat versions.
With the truth about fat still unclear, are our low-fat choices right? Are low-fat yoghurts really healthier?
The benefits of yoghurt
For a snack or breakfast and part of a balanced diet, yoghurt, both regular and low-fat options, can be beneficial.
Due to the different manufacturers, recipes and person consuming the yoghurt there are no clear-cut benefits, but yoghurt can be:
- High in protein
- Rich in calcium
- Full of vitamins
- Bursting with probiotics
Being a high protein sources means it can help to keep you fuller for longer, which can be helpful for weight loss.
Protein can also help with muscle repair and growth. As well as this, protein can promote healthy, skin, brain functioning and bones.
Calcium can also contribute to healthy bones as well as assisting your heart, nerves and muscles to function correctly.
The probiotics in yoghurt can help to improve the immune system and can help those who suffer from previous heavy metal exposure. Yoghurt has even been found to lower cholesterol, and some researchers believe that it could help to prevent type 2 diabetes too.
What is yoghurt fat anyway?
The ‘fat’ in yoghurt is largely saturated fat. When you see the percentage of fat on a full-fat yoghurt variety, it is likely that you will steer clear.
Most of us now will intrinsically associate fatty foods with weight or fat gain. Something most of us want to avoid.
All whole milk dairy products from yoghurts to cheese are typically high in saturated fat. Saturated fat is known to increase cholesterol.
A further reason why we try and avoid it.
However, there is no proven link between saturated fat and heart disease, which health officials previously thought.
It seems that if you can replace the saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat (found in soy yoghurts and vegetables), then it could reduce the risk of heart disease.
However, when you replace saturated fat with processed carbohydrates, such as refined sugar, then you could be increasing your risk of heart disease.
How much fat is in yoghurt?
Again, it is hard to give a definitive answer for how much fat is in yoghurts. Different recipes and manufacturers will vary.
Typically, plain whole milk yoghurt will contain around 3.3g of fat per 100g. 2.1g of this fat will be saturated fat.
On the other hand, plain low-fat yoghurts will have around 1.5g of fat per 100g. This will comprise of 1g of saturated fat. Non-fat yoghurt will typically contain less than 1g of fat, as the name suggests.
Considering the UK guidelines say we should limit saturated fat to 30g for men, 20g for women and less so for children, all types of plain yoghurt are acceptable as a healthy snack.
Low-fat yoghurts: the sugar problem
Considering yoghurt and low-fat yoghurts have the benefits mentioned above, and that low-fat yoghurts have less saturated fat than full-fat versions. It is no surprise that consumers opt for the low-fat option.
However, the main problem with low-fat yoghurts is sugar.
Fat tastes good. In yoghurt, it brings a sweetness (from the lactose – the sugar in dairy) and a creaminess.
When you take the fat content away, it reduces the flavour. To counteract this, manufacturers pile in sugars and sweeteners to improve the taste.
On average, there are around five teaspoons of sugar in a typical low-fat yoghurt. Per 100g, mainly in fruit and flavoured varieties, you can find around 15g of sugar per 100g.
It is essential to bear in mind that lactose in yoghurt usually accounts for 5g per 100g of the sugar content. Anything above this amount is added sugar.
Fat can be good for the body.
For example, fat can reduce your carbohydrate intake, support your hormone balance and improve your muscle gain. However, sugar has many damaging effects.
Sugar is high-calorie but with no nutrients. It can also lead to tooth decay and liver problems.
Sugar may also increase your risk of diabetes and can even cause cancer.
Sweetening the low-fat yoghurts deal?
Some yoghurt manufacturers have side-stepped the sugar problem by improving the flavour of their low-fat yoghurts with sweeteners.
However, with a lack of research conducted in the area.
We do not honestly know whether sweeteners are indeed safe.
One study found that sweeteners can lead to a 67% increase in type 2 diabetes.
If this is true with further research, then sweeteners may be just as harmful as sugar itself.
When it comes to preventing diseases and long-term health problems, it seems full-fat yoghurt is often the healthier choice.
If plain full-fat yoghurt is not sweet enough for you, then use fruit or vanilla extract to enhance the flavour.
With this, you will know precisely what is in your yoghurt.
Considerations of low-fat yoghurts
If you choose your low-fat yoghurt because of its promise of probiotics, then it may be wise to think again.
Many yoghurts will promise healthy digestion with probiotic properties.
Indeed, yoghurt can contain probiotics.
Probiotics can help with healthy digestion and overall good gut health.
However, if the yoghurt is pasteurised or goes through a heating process, then the benefits of the probiotics will be lost.
To benefit from probiotics, they need to be alive. With this in mind, organic varieties are often a better choice.
If you consume probiotic yoghurt for bowel illnesses, then commercial yoghurts (including dairy, soy and coconut versions) will not have a sufficient level of probiotics to help.
As well as this, if you consume yoghurt for its probiotic credentials, then it may be wise to switch to a kefir alternative, which may have a higher level of bacteria needed for good gut health.
So are low fat yoghurts really better?
If you want to enjoy yoghurt as a healthy snack or breakfast option, then full-fat yoghurts are likely to be the best choice.
Keeping you fuller for longer and with a sweet, yet natural taste, it is a foodstuff you can enjoy in moderation.
You can always enhance the flavour with nuts, fruit and honey and with that, you will be able to control exactly how healthy your yoghurt is.